Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
Click image to link to my web site,

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Making Trees

As I have been re-staging the layout and getting things situated for another Op session as well as an upcoming open house, I have tried to identify some things I could work on to move the layout along, visually. This mostly involves scenery work, although I did put a couple electrical items on the list I would like to tackle before the next session.

(Electrical: basically adding some on/off switches for staging tracks, something I should have done when I was doing the wiring on these tracks initially. There are a few easy to convert tracks I have identified to get the process started)

No doubt one of the biggest things I believe make a positive visual impact is adding some trees, particularly along the backdrops. Even without some foreground scenery in place, the train running past a completed tree line really looks nice. I have a couple areas where the backdrop is in and some basic ground cover exists between the tracks or other scenery, and all I really need are some trees.

I have a supply of Super Tree material waiting to be turned into individual trees. I did find that before summer started I had spent some time separating the material and doing some straightening prior to painting them up in preparation of adding ground foam and/or foliage leaf material. So these will be worked on soon, as I usually do that part outdoors. I thought I would share pictures of the straightening process as it utilizes a soldering iron, which sounds crazy but is very effective.

Here we see a pretty good tree armature, but it has a pretty severe bend!

Using a soldering iron, I can quickly touch the main stem to soften it and bend it back to straight. It only take a few seconds and works good if you apply pressure with the tip in such a way as to bend it back to straight. Often this can be done by doing it in a few key spots.

And just like that the tree is looking much better, straight and ready for a quick painting and then flocking.

About 20 years ago, when Super Trees were not really too well known or in use, I was at the Timonium train show and came across a lady selling tree kits. I believe her name was Jane. I'm pretty sure the product, Forests in a Flash, is not available anymore, but it is not a bad alternative for trees. It does not have the density of branches per stem like Super Trees, but can be combined to make a nice looking tree.

She would take the plant material and dye it to specific colors, and then bag it as kits. This process also kept the material quite flexible. She demonstrated how to combine multiple pieces into a single tree and ways to build up the trunk effectively.

In my stash, I still have material from the kits I bought way back then. At the time my wife used the material to create some birch trees, combining the yellow and green material to create a blended look.

Grabbing the material I set to work up in the family room as we got caught up on some TV watching that does not require intense focus (!). After cleaning up each stem piece to remove leaves, I painted the stems and some of the branches with white paint to represent white paper birch trees. I then combined multiple stems to make individual trees. I wrapped the trunk end with some white wire and trimmed the excess stem material below. I set each tree into holes in some scrap foam and then used white acrylic caulk to cover the wire and build out a truck base.

Later I will do some touch ups and add some black marks to better represent the birch trees.

The material comes packaged in single colors and includes some basic directions.

After painting the stems white I combined individual pieces together and then wrapped the bottom "trunk" with white cloth covered wire to hold them together, I placed each tree into scrap foam with holes punched in specifically for holding trees.

Here is a batch of trees ready for the next step of adding white acrylic caulk to build out the trucks. Each tree combines the yellow and green, which individually looks a little odd, but when placed together to represent multiple trees, the effect is nice and looks similar to birch trees that are yellowing out at different rates.

I used up about half the material I had, so another session will be in order create additional trees. I'll mix these in with the Super Trees and then set about filling in space along the backdrops to create a more finished look.

I'll post some pictures the completed trees in place once I get them planted!